bikers and skaters at the inglewood pump track
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

Find Your Flow State at the Pump Track

In Inglewood, a first-of-its-kind pump track has become a new home for LA’s biking community.

In 2024, revenge travel is out. Finding peace, and your new passion, is in. This year is an opportunity to pump the brakes—to look up, turn in, get lost, ride along. We’ve collected 12 stories, each of which highlights a pursuit or experience that embodies this mindset. We hope they act as inspiration for the year to come—the beginnings of your very own 2024 mood board.

A huge patch of grass in the heart of Edward Vincent Jr. Park in Inglewood is gone now, torn up and replaced with asphalt—and it’s a beautiful thing. On a brisk Tuesday morning, more than a dozen people bike and skate over undulating hills of charcoal gray, sweeping across red-streaked curves, turning quick laps around the Inglewood Pumptrack, a new home for the biking community and the first permanent pump track in LA.

Pump tracks are a type of special course for personal wheeled vehicles—bikes, skateboards, scooters—composed of a series of hills and dips of varying sizes called rollers, interwoven with tight turns called berms. The course is designed such that if you properly use your momentum, pump your legs up and down over the rollers, swoop through the berms, you can complete entire laps without pedaling or pushing. It’s both a great introduction to technical riding and its own form of meditation.

Eliot Jackson and his mother, Joi, are driving forces behind the track. Eliot is a cyclist himself, a former top 10 downhill mountain bike racer and a fixture on the World Cup circuit throughout his decade-long career. At his first World Cup, though, Eliot noticed that he was one of few people of color there, and throughout his career he found a distinct lack of diversity in the professional biking world. After he retired, he made it his mission to try to change that, creating Grow Cycling in 2020, a foundation dedicated to making bicycle sports a more inclusive and welcoming place for underrepresented communities.

Providing a permanent, reliable place for city kids to bike is hugely important to that mission. Eliot remembers struggling to find consistent places to ride in his childhood: “We would build dirt jumps and then you come back and the city has plowed them… and even mountain bike trails, fire can come, people build houses.” So, he says, “the idea of a permanent place [for biking] is super foreign.”

Building one in the middle of urban Inglewood is a step beyond that. Many of the best biking tracks are in the mountains, in ski resorts during the summer, or in remote destinations that are hard to visit, especially for young people from the heart of LA. “Even in Southern California, my mom would drive me half an hour or 45 minutes every day,” says Eliot, “and then a lot of the really good trails were like two and a half hours away.”

skater catching air at the inglewood pumptrack
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

When Eliot and Joi began planning the project in 2020, they knew they wanted to bring it into the concrete-dense, park-deprived sprawl of greater LA. After extensive research into various local government bodies and personalities, they found Inglewood to be the best fit, culturally and politically.

The independent city in southwest LA has a prestigious place in Black history, and it’s become known for art, culture, and a forward-thinking mindset. Inglewood was an important presence in the early days of hip-hop, in the evolution of the NBA with the Showtime Lakers, and in the modern era thanks to cultural touchstones like Insecure and SoFi Stadium.

It’s a notable place for the Jackson family, too; many of them went to Cozier Middle School and played and rode bikes on these streets. So this project was a homecoming, an opportunity for them to, as Eliot puts it, show Black joy, put the success of the city on display, and bring cycling to a community of color in a way that’s positive, not exploitative. Inglewood is in a period of change, with multiple new stadiums and an influx of business, outside attention, and convergent signs of gentrification; that made protecting free space for local kids feel even more important.

The Inglewood Pumptrack was in development for some three years, which is a long time if you’re counting the seconds but lightning quick for a public works project. The Jacksons worked closely with Sabrina Barnes, Inglewood’s Director of Parks, Recreation, and Library Services, who turned out to be a great partner for the project. She understood their vision and helped them find the right spot in the right park.

From there, Eliot got in touch with industry friends at Velosolutions, Yeti, and Santa Cruz Bicycles for sponsorship and to help spread the word. Most of the funding didn’t come from big-name companies, though—they drew an outpouring of contributions from bikers around the world, with more than 4,500 individual donors. “That was a special moment for me personally, just because I’ve spent most of my life in this community, I’ve loved this community, loved riding bikes,” Eliot says. “To have this incredible support from so many friends [means so much].”

The Jacksons have plans to use the pump track as a foundation for a much bigger urban initiative. “You can see this thing starting to take shape where this place is the platform and the starting point. How do we provide people careers? How do we provide education?” Eliot asks. Grow Cycling is already leading cycling programs in schools, putting on events, and hosting an online job board. “Our mission is to create opportunities for underrepresented communities using the bike.”

skater on the inglewood pumptrack
Photo by Harrison Hill for Thrillist

Even on a weekday afternoon, the Inglewood Pumptrack is well populated by bikers and skaters of all ages and ability levels, from wiry dudes on BMX bikes flying around the course to kids barely old enough to ride grooving gently through the track. There are children riding with their parents, packs of teenagers playing TikTok rap on tinny phone speakers, rad late middle-aged folks dropping in at top speed wearing full pads, and everyone in between.

There are two different courses: the Woodlands Track, which is smaller, designed to be both easier and a little more technical; and the World Championship Track, a behemoth with big rollers and swooping berms that was built in a mirrored design so that two riders can start on opposite ends and complete laps at the same time. That name is no accident, either—Eliot and Joi do plan to host World Championship competitions here.

It’s an impressive feat of engineering, and when you sit at the flat lip on top of a berm waiting to drop in, the courses are also strikingly beautiful. They’re surrounded by grassy slopes, dotted with trees, ringed with palms, dappled with winter sun filtered through foliage and diffused by smog. The winding asphalt lays out in front of you—at first it’s foreboding, but drop in and the fear melts away. The first laps will leave your forearms sore and your knuckles white, but eventually the pumping motion becomes more natural, you settle into the rocking, find that easy bliss—it’s a pure flow-state generator.

The Inglewood Pumptrack is a platform to build community around cycling, a place for people to learn to ride, a sorely needed space to gather and hang out. But none of that would work if it wasn’t also, on a base level, incredibly fun. “That feeling on a pump track,” Eliot says, “it’s like nothing else.”

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Ben Mesirow is Thrillist's LA Staff Writer, and an Echo Park native who writes TV, fiction, food, and sports. At one time or another, his writing has appeared in The LA Times, Litro, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, Los Angeles Magazine, and scratched into dozens of desks at Walter Reed Middle School.